When Osvaldo Alonso became a US citizen in June of 2012, the wheels started turning for fans of the US Men’s National Team.
Could Alonso, a Best XI defensive midfielder in Major League Soccer with a penchant for on-field thievery unlike any other player in the league, suit up in the Stars and Stripes?
On Saturday at CenturyLink Field, US National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said that he was one of those wondering the same thing.
“He really made himself known as a very strong No. 6, a very good team player, a player who is always there for his teammates,” Klinsmann told the media at halftime of Seattle's scoreless draw against New England on Saturday. “He would have been part of our January camp, but unfortunately, we can’t bring him in.”
The reason he has been unable to make that transition is largely an “administrative and governmental issue” according to the US coach.
In 2006 and 2007, Alonso played 17 matches for the Cuban National Team and was the captain the U23 team during qualification for the 2008 Olympics. During the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, though, he defected and lost eligibility with the Cuban National Team.
Since then, he played the 2008 season with the Charleston Battery before joining the Sounders FC for their inaugural season in 2009, where he has been a pivotal player in Seattle’s success across all competitions.
In that time, he has also made efforts to become eligible to play for the US National Team.
According to FIFA statutes, “If a Player who has been fielded by his Association in an international match in accordance with art. 5 par. 2 permanently loses the nationality of that country without his consent or against his will due to a decision by a government authority, he may request permission to play for another Association whose nationality he already has or has acquired.”
Here, Klinsmann said, is where the hang-up lies.
“We’ve followed his situation with big interest. Unfortunately, the Cuban side isn’t responsive at all,” said Klinsmann, who was in Seattle to do administrative work in advance of the US National Team’s match at CenturyLink Field against Panama on June 11. “We need their help in a certain way to get him cleared from Cuba. It is more like an administrative and governmental issue which we have no influence on it. I wish I could have brought him into January camp, and he knows that. He deserves a chance. He deserves a possibility, but it’s not in our hands, unfortunately. If Cuba is not giving a clearance, it’s not giving us a bit of help, FIFA is kind of strict in those matters. We’re on it, but no movement so far.”
On Saturday, Alonso had one of his better performances for the Sounders. In addition to his typically-disruptive five tackles, four clearances, three interceptions and 10 possessions gained, he completed 108 of his 116 pass attempts, which was 42 more attempts than the next-highest Sounder and 85 more than any player on the Revolution, continuing on a strong start to the 2013 season for the 27-year-old.
For his part, he has been patiently awaiting any change from the governing bodies.